It has come to that point of the New York Mets season again when the team is completely unbearable to watch, loses most games it plays, shows little to no effort nor desire to win, and acts like the Same Old Mets over and over again. But why should we Mets fans subject ourselves to only wallowing in the current brutal state of the team instead of looking forward to a rosier future?
You’re right, we shouldn’t. So that’s why I’m taking a very predictive look at who will constitute the Mets big-league club for the first game of next year’s season. First, we’ll take a look at the nine players who could very well start Game 1 of the 2013 season, the rest of the starting rotation, and then the murkier part of the future Mets, the bullpen and the bench. Reminder: This projection is in no way based on anything other than my reasoning and my knowledge of the Mets’ offseason tendencies.
Projected Mets Lineup on Opening Day of 2013 Season
1. Ruben Tejada SS
Tejada’s one-year contract expires after this season but expect the shortstop to be back with the Mets in 2013 in a starting capacity, just like his role with the team this year. Ruben, taking over the reins at short in the position of Jose Reyes who left this past offseason for greener pastures in Miami with the Marlins. Tejada has had a career year this season and with his batting average sitting at .308, more than 20 points higher than Reyes’, it could be stated that the Mets haven’t even suffered much without their former shortstop, also taking into consideration the supplemental picks the Mets received as compensation for his departure.
2. Mike Baxter RF
The Queens, NY native, when not on the disabled list, has been the Mets’ best pinch-hitter this season and has played pretty darn well when starting games too. Baxter is just one of those players that all managers love to have on their clubs as he doesn’t seem to make mistakes on the field (other than his baserunning snafu on Thursday) and always gives 100% when he plays. Sure, it’s possible that Lucas Duda could start in right by Opening Day but with his recent struggles and his certain one-sided abilities, Baxter seems like the best all-around option in-house for the right field starting job for next year.
3. David Wright 3B
Simply put: After the year David has been having, Sandy would have to be crazy to not pick up his option for 2013 and extend Wright for a few years after that, regardless of the cost. This guy is the cornerstone of the Mets’ lineup and the run production and defensive ability he brings to the table is just too irreplaceable to let him go.
4. Ike Davis 1B
When Ike was mired in his terrible slump during the roughly first two months of this season, there was a lot of doubt as to whether Ike would remain with the Mets past this year. Since his rough start, Davis has made a bit of a comeback, bringing his average up from around .150 to .220 where it is now. Sure, that average is still awful but it’s not nearly as bad as it was before and Ike’s resurgence, if you will, has showed that he’s probably not the player he was in April and May, but the player he was in June, July, and August. And no, he’s not going anywhere, barring some other MLB team making the Mets a crazy offer for Ike, which no team will. He’ll be at first base next year, you can count on that.
5. Daniel Murphy 2B
I don’t love the fact that I projectEd Murphy to be the Mets’ everyday second baseman for next season but I just don’t see the extremely frugal Sandy Alderson to go out in free agency and bring someone from out of the organization into the mix at the position. Also, since there isn’t any other suitable second base options in the upper levels of the Mets’ farm system, Terry Collins (if he makes it to next year) might have to be stuck with Murph at second, at least in the beginning of the 2013 season.
6. Kirk Nieuwenhuis CF
Kirk first showed up in the big leagues with the Mets this season and made a splash in center field immediately, showing his fielding talents, decent contact, and even the occasional home run. However, his rookie year was cut short by about 70 games after he partially tore the plantar fascia in his right foot. Andres Torres could easily start the 2013 in center over Kirk but I’m going with the homegrown guy who has more upside rather than the hired gun traded to New York by the Giants who is in his 30s and on the down slope of his career.
7. Scott Hairston LF
Where is Jason Bay, you might ask? Not starting in left field next year, at least according to this Mets fan. Honestly, Sandy Alderson and his front office minions should just terminate the Jason Bay failed experiment in 2013 (the last year of his 4-yr, $66 million contract). Bay has been getting worse every at-bat he has had with the Mets and Hairston is a nice veteran who can provide nice stability to left field that Bay can’t even pray of accomplishing at this point in his career. Also add in the fact that Scott is a home run threat every time he’s at the plate while Bay is a strikeout threat when he’s batting. I’ll take the former.
8. Josh Thole C
I don’t like this any more than you do but I just get the feeling that Alderson and Terry Collins will never give up on Thole and still think he has the pop to be an everyday catcher and be productive at that. I would much rather see a higher profile free-agent catcher be the starter next Opening Day or a catcher acquired via trade, since the farm system is kinda dry on backstops in the upper levels.
9. R.A. Dickey SP
I don’t care about his age, and I don’t think the Mets organization does either. The guy can pitch, and he gets guys out at high rates in addition to being a great clubhouse presence that could take much more of a leadership position if handed the “ace” card of the rotation formerly held by Johan Santana, whose years of being an ace are behind him. I had a tough time picking Dickey over Matt Harvey as ace but I gave it to R.A. based purely on seniority and MLB service time.
Ok, now that we’re done with the projected starters, let’s move on to the bench player projections for the Mets’ 2013 Opening Day roster. I’m going on the assumption that the team will carry 13 position players and 12 pitchers when they open next year’s campaign because that’s how the roster is built right now. So that leaves us with five bench spots over which to ponder. Let the predictions begin:
#1 bench spot: Kelly Shoppach C
After trading Pedro Beato to the Red Sox for Shoppach over a week ago, the Mets made their intentions known that the deal wasn’t simply for a short-term rental. The right-handed Shoppach, upon arrival with the club, has been widely discussed as a potential platoon-mate behind the plate with Josh Thole going forward into the future. Plainly, it makes sense for the Mets to re-sign the veteran this offseason as he has killed lefties during his career and can start against the southpaws in 2013 while Thole handles the righties. Sure, Shoppach may be on the wrong side of 30 but his veteran presence would be great for a mainly young Mets team next season. So I guess that means a no to Nickeas and Rob Johnson, two catchers who have been very much on the verge of the big league club for nearly the whole season. However, it just doesn’t make sense to have be a part of the big league team in 2013, at least in the beginning of the year.
#2 bench spot: Zach Lutz 3B
This roster spot could very well go to Ronny Cedeno but, once again, harkening back to Sandy Alderson’s administration’s fondness for in-organization guys, there is a very good chance that Lutz could commandeer a back-up infielder spot from Cedeno, who’s had a decent year with the Mets. Lutz had a cup-of-coffee appearance with the big leaguers in April but spent most of his year in Triple-A Buffalo. With the Bisons, the 26 year-old third baseman hit for average (.290 on the year in 65 games) and flashed a little power (10 HRs in 237 at-bats), which are two qualities that weren’t always present in the Mets’ reserve infielders this year. Far from a lock at a roster spot coming out of Spring, but a definite possibility, and a reasonable one at that as well.
#3 bench spot: Justin Turner INF
Turner isn’t the sexiest middle infielder and he’s certainly not going to lead the league in home runs, stolen bases, or any other category for that matter, but he does know his role on the Mets and sticks to it, doing a pretty good job at that. When healthy the last two seasons with the Mets, Turner has proven himself to be a reliable fill-in around the infield and has been someone who can field at an average to above-average level, especially at second base, his most natural position. There are definitely other free agent options around the league that could do the same, if not marginally better, job than Turner on the Mets’ bench but at slightly more than the major league minimum salary, Turner is actually a much more cost-effective back-up middle infielder as opposed to an out-of-organization candidate.
#4 bench spot: Jordany Valdespin UTIL
Valdespin certainly isn’t the most conventional player and might not have nearly enough baseball IQ to be passable on most MLB teams, but he has spunk and power that is lacking on the Mets roster in its current state. I don’t feel very confident with this projection because of Jordany’s many flaws (terribly low OBP of .278 this season, low average of .242, and inconceivable amounts of mental mistakes on the field, like his overrunning of a fly ball in center field in Thursday’s loss) and the fact that there are some other options at utilityman in the organization who very well could be on this team next Opening Day instead of the feisty Dominican, such as Josh Satin in Triple-A and even Wilmer Flores in Double-A. However, Sandy might go with Valdespin on Opening Day due to his big league experience.
#5 bench spot: Lucas Duda OF
At the beginning of this season, Lucas was supposed to be a key cog in the middle of the Mets’ batting order who could provide tons of power for a team lacking it. Obviously, that didn’t work out nearly as well as the team thought it would and by late July, Duda found himself back down in Triple-A with the Bisons after a more-than disappointing season for the big league club. The Mets still seem to be on Lucas’ side and they will seemingly give him another chance with the big club before giving up on the USC graduate. I figure that his next chance will be a try-out session of sorts at the beginning of the 2013 season.
Now done with the bench, let’s hit up the rest of the Mets’ starting rotation and then the much-maligned bullpen, assuming the team will carry seven relief pitchers based on my projections/assumptions. Warning: Baseball fan discretion advised, the bullpen might get ugly:
Starter #2: Matt Harvey
Former 1st-round pick, has struck out seven more batters than innings pitched in his first six starts, sub-3.00 ERA, and .186 opposing batting average. Is it really a question if this guy will be in the Mets’ rotation when next season begins? Well, there is no question because it’s a no-doubter, it’s just unclear of where in the rotation Harvey will land.
Starter #3: Johan Santana
With the recent news that he would be shut down for the rest of the 2012 season due to a back injury, Johan Santana’s immediate future with the New York Mets was thrown into jeaopardy: Will he be able to come back in 2013 and remain the All-Star pitcher he has been his whole Mets career or will he never be the same pitcher again and fade off into the sunset like many injury-plagued players before him? Well, the answer remains to be seen but in my opinion, it will be some sort of a middleground. Will Johan be a shutdown, top of the rotation ace anymore? Probably not. Will he lose all pitching ability and pitch to a 7.00+ ERA before hanging up the spikes one last time? Probably not. But for now, all Johan can be considered as is a potential middle-rotation pitcher with a hefty price tag, almost assuring he won’t be going to another team via trade this offseason.
Starter #4: Jonathon Niese
The Mets signed Jon to a 5-yr, $25.5195 million deal earlier this year, which means he’ll be around for the long term. Niese has solidified his spot in the rotation this season, which was necessary after a few shaky years in Flushing. Boasting a 10-7 record, 3.49 ERA, and career-low 1.15 WHIP, Jon has justified the extension he signed in April from the team’s perspective and alleviated nearly all doubts about his ability to have a full season of consistently good pitching in which he gave his team a chance to win nearly every time he started.
Starter #5: Dillon Gee
Unfortunately, Dillon’s season had to end much earlier than expected due to a very severe blood clot he suffered after a July win against the Cubs, an injury for which Gee had to be hospitalized. Going forward, the injury is not supposed to be career-threatening, which is wonderful news for both Gee and the Mets. You can never have enough starting pitching depth and Gee’s return to the rotation next season gives the Mets another guy who can consistently pitch to an ERA of around four and a half, strike out about eight guys per nine innings, and always keep the team in games.
Spot starter/Long relief #1: Chris Young
All Chris does is get his flyballs and pitch to an ERA from around 4.0 to 4.4, which is exactly what the Mets have asked of him in his 18 starts. However, based on the roster shuffle, it looks like there isn’t an available spot in the big league rotation for 2013 for the tall veteran pitcher. Although he is a free agent this offseason and would most likely head to a team that has room for him in their rotation, there is a nice chance that the Mets could woo Young to remain in Queens to take a lessened role as spot starter, always necessary on the injury-prone Mets, and longman. I really hope Chris comes back for yet another season as he can always be counted on for a big start when the team needs it.
Long relief #2: Collin McHugh
Granted, the only live start I’ve seen of McMugh’s was his debut on Thursday but it was very good and certainly puts him into the conversation to make the big league roster coming out of Spring Training in 2013. Depending on if the Mets bring back Mike Pelfrey for next year and how his injury heals, McHugh could be shut out of a roster spot but if Pelfrey has already pitched his last pitch for the Mets, there is no reason why Collin shouldn’t play a big role of the Mets’ pitching staff for next season.
Middle relief #1: Jon Rauch
Another guy who’s a free agent after the season, but Rauch, after a tough May, has bounced back nicely on the mound and has actually been one of the Mets’ better relievers this season and have definitely done enough to warrant himself at least another one-year deal and 100% a spot in the bullpen.
Middle relief #2: Tim Byrdak
The guy gets lefties out. That’s his job on the team, and that’s what he does. If he can come back from his shoulder injury, there’s no reason why the Mets shouldn’t try to re-sign him for the 2013 bullpen.
Middle relief #3: Ramon Ramirez
Ramirez, who came over in the Angel Pagan trade, has been shaky to say the least in his first stint with the Mets, pitching to an uneven 4.38 ERA in 44 appearances. I’m not really sure what to make of Ramirez as he might have been the most inconsistent member of the Mets’ pen this season; some outings he looked flat-out dominant and other outings he couldn’t buy an out. His struggles in 2012 actually mirror his pen-mate Frank Francisco, who has had a harder go of it than Ramirez. Regardless, there aren’t many other options either on the free agent market or in the minors that will do a similar if not better job than Ramon next season at a similar or even cheaper price. To me, it makes sense to give it another go with Ramirez and sign him quickly before the Pagan trade goes for naught for the Mets, considering the massive disappointment Andres Torres — the other player acquired in the San Fran deal — has been this year.
Set-up man: Jenrry Mejia
Once highly-touted prospect Mejia has fought the injury bug the last few seasons and spent all of 2012 so far in the minors, playing with Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo when not in lower levels for rehab assignments. Still, Jenrry has a ton of upside and it’s obvious that the front office wants to give him another chance to show himself worthy of a spot on the big league club, serving an important role in the bullpen.
Closer: Bobby Parnell
Yes, I know Frank Francisco is signed for the 2013 season but with the dreadful way he has pitched towards the end of this season, the Mets would be hard-pressed to bring Frankie back for another campaign. A team simply can’t wain when its closer has an ERA in the sixes, so it probably would be prudent for the Mets to either cut their losses and just release Francisco or convince another team to trade for him (presumably with the Mets eating a significant chunk of the $6.5 million owed for 2013). On the other hand, Parnell is more than ready to assume the closer role that he’s been teased about for years and it’s about time Bobby gets a chance to prove himself at the back of the Mets’ pen.
About the Author
Josh Burton is a student at Lynbrook High School on Long Island in New York. He enjoys writing about his favorite sports teams like the Mets, New Jersey Nets, and others. Josh has been a Mets fan since birth and has stuck with the team through the highs of the Bobby Valentine and Willie Randolph managerialships and the lows of the Art Howe and Jerry Manuel managerialships; of course the jury is still out on Terry Collins. His one dream with the New York Mets is to personally witness a World Series Championship in his lifetime. Ya Gotta Believe!